David Austen Little Ocean (pale), 2019

The Unseen Masterpiece INGLEBY GALLERY EDINBURGH (2020)

And so, we reach the end of week 11 of ‘The Unseen Masterpiece’ – how did that happen? – and Alec Finlay’s William Blake inspired ladders lead to David Austen’s paintings of stars. As with both Finlay and Blake, the linking of word and image is a constant through David’s richly dense and diverse body of work. This is often as true of the works themselves (many of which feature fragments of text) as it is of their original inspiration, culled from the artist’s deep knowledge of literature, film and art history.

It’s knowledge that David also sometimes brings to the world of curating – most recently in collaboration with George Shaw in a ‘Aerodrome’ for Birmingham’s IKON gallery, a wonderful tribute to the life of their friend Mike Stanley involving many of Mike’s artist friends, including David himself, and Alec Finlay.

There’s a collage-like approach to David’s curating – and to some extent to his way of thinking and making work – collecting and connecting elements that might first seem disparate, but which come together to make sense of the greater whole. It’s a methodology that finds physical form in his London studio – an Aladdin’s cave of art and literature that feels a little bit like stepping into the artist’s brain. To end week 11 of ‘the Unseen Masterpiece’ we are delighted to share LONDON DREAMS, a new film portrait of David in his studio which he describes here:

“I was returning to the studio after eight weeks away. It felt strange, like entering a dark tomb. The shutters opened and let the light in. Who is this person who made these odd works, these sheaves of drawings and watercolours? And read all these piles of books? I was nervous of continuing the half-finished works on the walls that now seemed frozen in time, as if by another’s hand.

I asked my friend, the photographer Ben Stockley, whose studio is just above mine in Bow, if he would like to make a little film. Ben likes photographing artist’s studios … he especially loves the fall and play of light, the jetsam and flotsam of images and objects that accumulates in an artist’s studio.

We felt it would be interesting to make a fictional story, recreating a return to the studio but almost as if in a dream or half remembered thing”.